As I get further into my life, I realize how much mine it is. Us humans are born into families, raised in groups, solaced by the comfort of others. But every great test of our abilities or intellect or creativity or strength is done ultimately, on our own. What I mean—you don’t get that amazing job with someone else’s resume, climb Machu Picchu with someone else’s body, or bungee jump off a bridge after overcoming someone else’s fears. In the end, no matter how many people’s footprints are sunk into the mud next to you, it’s your path.
Obviously, my point isn’t to advocate being isolationist and selfish in the greater world—that would be a silly conclusion to make of all this. But we are alone in our world, and that is an important distinction. Our world is our desires, perceptions, struggles, goals. As I get older, I find myself breaking away from socialized norms and trends, congratulating myself for being unique. When this happens, a little piece of my world becomes more distinct, more vivid, more realized.We think we are modeled by everyone else, but really we’re clay in our own hands.
The flip side of all this is the negative connotation we’ve been taught. We are nurtured to think that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and social anxiety, that not wanting to follow the crowd (both literally and figuratively) means that there is something wrong with you. But being alone, both physically and mentally, is so essential to our development into self-affirmed, self-aware people. It crystallizes our personal world within the universe of others.
I’ve been meditating on this since I woke up to the realization that I’m in the throws of transition. College is coming to a close and the friends I’ve made here are going off in every direction: Bali, Nebraska, California, Costa Rica. We’re graduating and starting our “real lives” as people like to tell me, no longer reassured by the guarantee of returning to each other and to campus the next fall. It’s amazing how many experiences have come and gone like lightning: meeting in the dining hall for giggle-full dinners, quoting Borat religiously, carrying candles around the track for Relay For Life, hiking Oyster Dome, making funny videos and bonding over drunk Uno. I drank in (no pun intended) those experiences as they occurred, and yet still they’ve flashed by, mere specs on the dartboard of my memory. All that’s left of them is a singular, enriched, inspired, thankful me—and that’s something to think about.